NEW YORK -- Abdi Abdirahman ran like a man half his age on Sunday in the New York City Marathon, but that should really come as no surprise.
The 39-year-old four-time U.S. Olympian from Somalia who lives and trains in Tucson, Ariz., has continued to run strong late in his career. Although he hasn't run a marathon in four years since he started the 2012 Olympic race in London he ran his third-fastest time (2:11:23) en route to placing third in the men's elite field.
Not bad for a guy who turns 40 on Jan. 1. Turns out, it's one of the best results of his 17-year pro career, which has included success on the track, roads and in cross country.
"I'm not old! Can't I be young for just one more day?!" Abdirahman joked after the post-race press conference. "Age is just a number to me. I don't look it as my age as a disadvantage at all. I kind of look at it as an advantage because I have experience and I have have been here before. I told the guys before the race I was in this race in 2004 and they said, 'Really?' and I said 'Yes!' They couldn't' believe it!"
Running in his fifth New York City Marathon, Abdirahman emerged in the lead group after fellow American Dathan Ritzenhein took an early lead and led much of the race through the 5K (15:18) and 10K (30:38). In fact, Abdirahman approached Ritzenhein while they were running stride for stride up front and tried to offer him some sage advice-namely to settle down and race more relaxed.
Ritzenhein, a 34-year-old three-time U.S. Olympian who owns a 2:07:47 marathon PR, insisted on running a few strides in the front of the front pack of 20 runners, even though he wasn't running any faster than the rest of them.
"I told him to cool down and relax," Abdirahman said. "He was just breaking the wind and making it easier for everyone else. It's a long race, there's no need to do that. I just wanted to help him calm down a bit."